A federal appeals court in Philadelphia Thursday afternoon issued a stay of execution in
the case of condemned state prisoner Hubert Michael, Jr.
The stay is for 14 days.
The last-minute decision by a U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals panel means Hubert Michael, Jr. will not be given a lethal injection at the Rockview State Correctional Institution in Centre County Thursday evening.
Michael had been scheduled for execution after he had exhausted most of his appeals and was denied a bid for clemency by the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons.
The state Supreme Court had earlier denied a request for a stay, and two federal judges ruled that the execution could go forward.
Gov. Tom Corbett had signed Michael’s death warrant in September.
The Third Circuit agreed to issue a stay and return the case to a lower court for additional proceedings.
The Third Circuit’s decision directs the District Court to address lingering procedural issues. It also says the parties should be prepared to address whether the District Court abused its discretion in denying a motion to reopen Michael's capital habeas case.
The order was signed by Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ambro.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Michael’s appellate lawyers were pleased with the decision to halt the execution, saying jointly that “Mr. Michael has suffered from debilitating mental conditions throughout his life. Mr. Michael has compelling legal claims in his case which have never been reviewed by any court.”
The lawyers had earlier argued that Michael is afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome, which is similar to Autism, and that he is remorseful for his actions.
Michael, 56, has been on death row since pleading guilty to the kidnapping and shooting death of 16-year-old Trista Eng in York County back in 1993.
Michael’s death would have been the first involuntary execution of a Pennsylvania prisoner since 1999, the year infamous Philadelphia torture-murderer Gary Heidnik was put to death.
Michael had been scheduled to meet his fate Thursday at 7 p.m. at SCI Rockview near State College, Pa.